Downtown Market Street buildings find quick buyers

When Peninsula Insurance closed two large office buildings in Downtown Salisbury last summer and cut or transferred more than 40 employees, it was a gut punch to city redevelopment efforts.

After all, these two buildings had held insurance offices dating back decades and were once owned by the legendary Sam Seidel.

With efforts to ensure high occupation rates for Downtown’s significant office inventory finding success in recent years, the prospect of the two large and well-kept structures in East Market Street sitting empty was plenty alarming.

Turns out there was no need for concern.

Building contractor Chris Eccleston and energy consultant Walt Moore confirmed last week that they are participants in a partnership that has purchased the two buildings and will move their two companies there.

Moore’s APPI Energy will move from its leased Northwood Drive headquarters and bring about 40 employees Downtown. They will occupy the slightly larger west building.

Eccleston will move his highly touted Delmarva Veteran Builders from the Salisbury University-owned Plaza Gallery Building just down the hill and across South Division Street.

Now renamed Salisbury University Downtown, the building that decades ago served as the community’s Woolworth’s store is being renovated to, among other things, serve as the home of the university’s new Center For Entrepreneurship.

The former insurance company buildings — addressed as 112 East Market St. and 122 East Market St. — offer a combined 14,419 square feet of office space, with the west building being the largest.

Eccleston’s construction company has 25 total employees, with 10 assigned to the Downtown office. He plans to occupy the new space in April.

Chris Eccleston.

Chairman of the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, Eccleston said he became aware of the buildings while his company was building the Riverwalk Amphitheater.

“I would walk past them between my office and the amphitheater,” he recalled. “I am not a ‘buyer guy.’ Then one day (commercial Realtor Henry Hanna) called and said, ‘What do you think about those buildings?’ It wasn’t even on my radar.”

Later conversations with Moore got the deal rolling.

According to state property records, the businessmen paid $1.25 million for the two office buildings and three parking lots.

Walt Moore.

John McClellan of SVN-Miller Commercial Realtors said there had been steady interest in the properties since Peninsula Insurance vacated last summer.

He said the Downtown environment will prove ideal for Moore’s APPI Energy employees.

“The young Millennial types, the type of employees Walt has, love working in the Downtown environment where there are restaurants, shops — and a beer garden coming.”

Moore agreed. “Where we are in Northwood is not conducive to young people who want to walk out of the office at lunch and find something quickly. My team is looking at this as a huge benefit-boost.”

Eccleston said both buildings will undergo some exterior improvements, “to spruce it up and make it our own.”

Peninsula Insurance — and Seidel Insurance before that — was a presence in Downtown Salisbury since 1960. When it closed July 2, some 40 people lost their jobs as the parent company, Donegal Insurance, consolidated services into a headquarters office in south-central Pennsylvania.

 

Greg Bassett is editor and general manager of Salisbury Independent. Reach him at gbassett@newszap.com

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